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Neapolitan Cello Concertos

Sollima I Turchini under Antonio Florio performs cello concertos by Leonardo Leo , Nicola Fiorenza, Giuseppe de Majo, and the cellist, Giovanni Sollima on Glossa. In the sound world of Leo's cello concerto, I was reminded of the language and style of Tartini's with Roel Dieltiens and Ensemble 415. It's a rollicking affair in the two fast movements, with a minor mode helping fuel the drama. The orchestra emerges first, revealing the cello later, played with plenty of virtuosity by Sollima. The recorded sound is clear, with the continuo harpsichord cutting through the string texture. The next work is by a composer unknown to me, one Nicola Fiorenza. Written in B-flat, it, like the Leo work, opens with a slow movement and is constructed in 4 movements, total. It may not be the most profound of music to open with, but Sollima does as good a job as any cellist I can imagine at letting the line sing. The tempo and pacing seems entirely appropriate. The second movement employs some strong "swipes" using double stops, and the opening from the cello straight away sounds like a lot of fun to perform. The chosen tempo later proves to be a workout for Sollima, which for us is great fun. Again, the appropriate term here is virtuosity. Fiorenza knew it as a composer, and Sollima matches the call today. It's hard to really say Fiorenza is like any other composer we may know; he's got a light and fresh set of ideas, yet the most interesting aspects of his writing is when he gets the cello busy in some sequences of patterns… his second work on the recording is a shorter one, a so-called "Sinfonia in c," played by smaller forces, single strings to my ears. His second movement, a fast one marked "Fuga" is Italian all the way, and is somehow between the final movement of a Haydn Sun quartet and a Corellian second movement. This, to be clear, is not a cello piece. But it's a clear take on Corelli's style. The final work is de Majo's major-moded 3-movement concerto for cello. The sound world channels the first piece on the recording, by Leo. The solo lines for cello tend to be more melodic than "busy work." More than the other pieces, this one reveals the acoustic atomosphere in which the works were recorded. It sounds as if the space is appropriate for a small chamber orchestra. Through the end, Sollima proves to be a capable interpreter of this fun repertoire. The odd one out in the recording is the piece entitled Fecit Neap. 17 by Sollima. It's a modern piece of some 19 minutes, inspired by an imaginary baroque piece. It employs the baroque sound world at the start with continuo instruments, but the solo cello employs a kind of vibrato that could only be from our own time. After an affective solo, the continuo returns to support the solo cello. The harmonies start off as quasi-baroque, but the changes into more modern progressions is deeply moving. I enjoyed the piece, especially the first half. At about 3-minutes in, it picks up speed and gets really interesting. But it's length is something, positioned in the middle of the recording, that may put-off modern listeners, expecting an full-baroque recording. It's the type of thing that might be the right ingredient for a successful concert. On record, it's a 20-minute experiment that took away one or more real Italian baroque concertos.

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